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Air traffic program investment to help future aviation professionals

November 04, 2009

Donald L. Ottosen’s fascination with aviation began early in life with his childhood dreams of flying airplanes. As an adult, not only did Mr. Ottosen fly them, but he helped recondition and maintain some of the most historic planes in the United States. When World War II ended, his experience in working with aircraft propellers led him to start Ottosen Propeller Services, Inc. This long-standing business has helped inspire three generations of aviators.

Today, the Ottosen Family Foundation wants to honor his memory by investing in generations to come with a gift to establish the Ottosen Air Traffic Control Simulation Laboratory in Arizona State University’s College of Technology and Innovation at the Polytechnic campus.

“As a pilot, I understand the important role played by talented and well-trained professionals who can safely manage and control air traffic,” said Don Ottosen, founder of the Ottosen Family Foundation. “We hope this gift on behalf of our late father is instrumental in helping more students pursue aviation careers as air traffic controllers for years to come.”

As current air traffic controllers start to retire  the need for qualified, highly trained replacements will be critical. Recent stories in the media have highlighted the lowering of overall experience levels as the retirees are replaced.

“High quality simulation systems are an important part of controller training to optimize students’ skills as they enter the workforce,” said Verne Latham, lecturer and laboratory coordinator in the air traffic management program.

The Ottosen gift will help students learn in one of the most advanced air traffic simulation centers in a university setting in the country, he said.

ASU is one of two institutions in the state that offers such a program and is the only public institution in Arizona filling this need. In addition, it’s the only one in an educational setting that has the control tower and radar simulation systems interfaced. Eventually, the ATC system could interface with flight simulators used by students in the professional flight program.

“This will allow students to truly engage in a real-world experience both for the student pilots and the future air traffic controllers,” said Keith Hjelmstad, university vice president and dean of the College of Technology and Innovation.

The new simulator equipment from Adacel is similar to what’s being used at the FAA Air Traffic Control (ATC) Academy in Oklahoma City. The Tower Simulator System displays a virtual 315-degree view of an airport area, depicting the operational movement areas, taxiing aircraft, ground vehicle movement, and arriving and departing aircraft. The four radar simulator systems depict enroute and terminal airspace and the associated air traffic movement.

“The new equipment will provide the advanced preparation students need to transition to the workforce,” said Hjelmstad.  “With the gift from the Ottosen Family Foundation, we are helping to prepare students to fill a vital role in the air transportation industry in our country.”

In 2007, the air traffic management program earned the distinction of being sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration as a Collegiate Training Initiative institution.  “That designation and the new laboratory make it possible for preferential hiring of our graduates,” said Latham.

A dedication ceremony is planned for Nov. 5, at the Simulator Building on the Polytechnic campus.

Chris Lambrakis,
(480) 727-1173
Public Affairs at ASU Polytechnic campus